Diet for a Healthy Pregnancy by Dr. Varsha Patel-Joshi


For a mum-to-be, it is even more important to have a well balanced diet, as what you eat has to meet the needs of the mother as well as the developing baby in the womb. In the first trimester most of the physical and mental growth of the baby takes place, one should be very careful in terms of health and diet. During these 1st three months, important organs and the nervous system are developed, hence it is essential to eat a balanced diet from the beginning. The baby takes up room in the abdomen leaving less space for the stomach and thus making it harder for one to eat also leading to morning sickness, yet one need to eat nutritious diet to ensure proper growth and development of the baby.

A nutritious diet includes adequate amount of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins, selected from five basic groups - fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grain products, proteins (meat, fish, pulses, and lentils), milk and other dairy products. Eat a variety of food as possible but in moderation, as too much of any food can cause excessive weight gain. Try and eat 3 big meals and 3 small meals throughout the day

Some essential nutrients to be considered while planning the diet:

Folic acid: it is one of the key ingredients required for the development of the nervous system. Deficiency of folic acid in first few weeks would cause neural tube defect and other birth defects like cleft lip and congenital heart disease. At least 4 mg of folic acid should be consumed from the day of conception and during the first trimester. Natural sources of folic acid - dark green leafy vegetables, liver, yeast, beans, citrus fruits and now also available in fortified bread and cereals. As folic acid is easily destroyed while cooking, best is to either steam the vegetables or eat them raw. Folic acid supplements can be taken under your physician's supervision.

Iron: iron aids the production of hemoglobin. As the blood volume increases during pregnancy, hemoglobin levels should also increase, for which the iron requirement also increases. An average woman needs about 15 mg of iron daily and during pregnancy the requirement doubles up to 30-50 mg per day. Include food rich in iron like - potatoes, raisins, dates, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, whole grain breads, meat and iron fortified cereals. Iron derived from food is not enough to combat the need hence iron supplements should be consumed under the guidance of your physician. Iron is best absorbed when taken along with vitamin C, hence the supplements should be consumed with an orange or sweet lime juice. Also certain medications, calcium rich food, caffeinated drinks and antacids inhibits absorption of iron so should be avoided with iron supplements.

Calcium: it is essential for the development of bones and teeth of the baby. It starts forming about the eight week of pregnancy. One needs about double (1200 mg) the quantity of calcium than normal. One needs to consume at least 3 servings of milk and milk products. Apart from dairy products foods high in calcium are - green leafy vegetables, salmon, tofu, broccoli, peas, okra, beans, brussel sprouts, sesame seeds, bok choy, almonds.

Proteins: Protein is most important nutrient required for the proper development of the baby. Eat variety of protein rich foods to ensure adequate protein intake. Incorporate vitamin B6 along for proper utilization of protein. Sources - nuts, peas, lentils, beans, dairy products, egg white, fish and meat. Animal sources are also high in fat, so choose lean cuts of meat and limit your intake.

Vitamin A: essential for the embryonic growth of the baby, for the development of heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes and bones, the circulatory, respiratory and the central nervous system. Vitamin A is also essential during the third trimester as after the birth of the baby, it helps mother with the postpartum repair. But Vitamin A intake should not exceed the recommended dosage (750mg /2500 IU). Over dose of vitamin A can cause birth defects and liver toxicity.

Vitamin C: it helps in development of a strong placenta, improves your immunity thus prevents infections, it also enhances iron absorption. As vitamin C is not restored in our body, a daily supply is essential. A considerable amount of vitamin is lost in prolonged storage and while cooking, hence it is best to eat fresh food and steam the vegetables or eat them raw. Sources - fresh fruits like - strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, grapefruit, passion fruit, orange, sweet lime etc, fresh vegetables - green leafy vegetables, beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, tomatoes etc.

Fiber: constipation and piles are most common conditions during pregnancy; high fiber diet should be consumed to prevent it. Sources- fresh fruits and vegetable, brown rice, beans, nuts, cereals and pulses are very good sources of fiber.

Water: pregnant women should drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water per day. It plays important role during pregnancy - carries nutrients from mother's food to the baby, it prevents constipation, piles, UTI and during last trimester drinking enough water prevents from dehydration and thus prevents contractions and premature labor. Juices can replace for fluids but they are high in calories and one can gain extra weight. Tea, coffee and aerated drinks cannot be included in total amount of fluids as they contain caffeine which reduces the amount of fluid in our body.

Certain foods are no no during pregnancy:
  • Canned and processed food
  • Spicy food
  • Tea, coffee, aerated drinks. Caffeine is linked to low birth weight, it is also one of the cause for miscarriage.
  • Hot chocolate, sugary foods like cakes, candies, sodas, colas.
  • Reduce salt intake, especially when you have swelling and high blood pressure during pregnancy. Do not completely avoid salt as it is an important nutrient.
  • Shark, swordfish, marlin, they may have high levels of mercury.
  • Raw sea food such as oyster and sushi.
  • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry and eggs, they may contain bacteria which can harm your baby.
  • Certain cheese like brie and camembert and blue veined cheese like stilton, they all contain listeria, a bacteria that can harm your unborn child.
  • Liver and liver products as they are high in retinol a form of Vitamin A, too much of this vitamin is not good for the development of the baby.
  • Junk, fatty and sugary food.
  • Do not eat left over, frozen and deep frozen food.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy. It is known to cause physical defects and learning disabilities and emotional disturbances in children. If you have to drink, u can have no more than one or two units of alcohol and not more than twice a week. DON'T GET DRUNK.
  • Do not go on diet during pregnancy can harm you and the developing baby. Remember weight gain during pregnancy is a very positive sign for a healthy pregnancy.

Treat yourself occasionally If you are pregnant does not mean that you have to give up all your favorite food. Once in a while you can enjoy the luxury of an ice cream or desserts, but it should not be the mainstay of your diet. But when you occasionally indulge, don't feel guilty. ENJOY EVERY BITE!

Consult a Qualified Nutritionist who will guide you through your pregnancy.Do not try a diet on your own. Try to do activities that keep you happy and help you sleep well, take care of your self, avoid high heels , be cautious dont get into an accident. And DO NOT FORGET NO SMOKING AND HARD DRINKS.

Call us Now and talk with our Diet expert : +91 9819155780.

E mail : drjoshi@happylivin.com

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